Sunday, September 30, 2007

A Great American

I just saw a great movie: Pete Seeger: The Power of Song. Pete Seeger probably means more to me than any other living singer. My wife -- then my college girlfriend -- and I went on our first date to a Pete Seeger concert. But Pete's not just a folk music hero to me; he's worshipped by many important singers who've followed him -- Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Steve Earle just to name a few. (Earle's terrific new album, Washington Square Seranade, has a song called "Steve's Hammer for Pete").

Seeger is a man of tremendous principle. He married a Japanese woman in the 1940's when our country was throwing many Japanese-Americans in prison camps. He fought for civil rights, singing with Paul Robeson when it nearly cost him his life. He inspired many famous civil rights leaders, including Julian Bond, who credits Seeger for opposing Jim Crow laws before the Movement really got underway. Pete even wrote some of the lyrics to We Shall Overcome. He fought for unions and common working men (and women since he also advocated equality among the sexes). He traveled the world and recorded world music like no one had ever done before.



For all this he was branded a Communist and banned from appearing on TV for 17 years at the height of his popularity. When the ban was finally lifted he shocked everyone by singing an anti-Vietnam War song called "The Big Muddy." Since then he sang to end apartheid in South Africa and almost single handedly cleaned up the Hudson River. He's 88 now and he gets my vote for "greatest living American." Who are your heroes?

6 comments:

Bernadette.Brandt said...

While I can clearly see that Pete Seeger has an impressive resume, he is probably not a typical child's role model. My mom is my role model. Like Seeger, she has tremendous principle, strong opinions, and is very smart. However not every hero gets a movie to celebrate them, and I think we should appreciate not just the 'famous' heroes, but the 'everyday' heroes.

Elizabeth L said...

well said bernadette i agree withyou completely. I also see my Mom as my hero, she is actually a lot like me, but I think it is interesting how in movies usually 'The HERO's postive personalities are showed and not the bad things. Then I see it hard to be atleast my hero because they wouldnt seem real to me. I know a lot of my mom's flaws but I still see her as a hero- because I learn from her mistakes.
I also think it's interesting how they would convey a hero in a earlier movie than in a movie today and the differences or what a hero was at these two diffferent points.

Harlesbarkly said...

Hello, I'm Harleys father. Our contry needs mora Pete Seegers. We need more individuals who will stand up for what they believe in.

dkeane said...

This is Dillon's father. I saw some of the comments that were posted concerning a parent as their hero, and i have to admit my first response was to comment not in terms of hero but a person I admire - Mayor Daley. However the impact of the comments on the parent really take notice of a person who has given me unequivocal love since the day I was born; & focused his daily routine to make things better for his sons - my father. I grew up in a blue collar neighborhood in a suburb of Cleveland. My father worked as a salesman for a motor freight company, and provided a good living for us; nothing extravagant but good. AS I reached my teenage years and became the world's smartest person on any and all subjects, my father was always the beacon of reason with a calmness that soothed the beast of immaturity that wrestled with my ability to think logically. Never a push over but a person that would sit you down and talk to you not bark at you. One of the stories I have told my four sons is that the day I left for college my father was the world's dumbest man. The day I graduated from college he was declared the world's most brilliant person by his "Mr. I Don't It All" son.

My father is 90 now and as I look back on my adult life his beacon still provided that light that I needed to be a good husband, father, friend, & business associate. My father showed me that success is not just getting raises at work or promotions; but rather, the knowledge that your life is an example for your children to use in their maturation process. I only hope to be as successful as my father was with me. For any of my sons to look back in years to come, and say their father was their hero would mean my father's beacon was transferred in a small way to his son who would continue to show those qualities to his sons.

Sam B. said...

This is Sam B's mom. My hero growing up was Helen Keller. I read a biography of her in grade school and was indelibly impressed and inspired by her life. I felt that if she could overcome the disabilities, biases and stumbling blocks in her way, then I could certainly work past whatever difficulties or challenges I faced. In considering her daily life, I encountered a vastly different point of view of the world, quite literally. I tried to imagine understanding my world without the five senses that inform everything. It's made me aware and grateful for the many different ways we perceive light, color, movement, music. In one extreme experiment, I blindfolded myself and tried walking around my house. This resulted in a trip to the emergency room for stitches!
To address the parent-as-hero thread in these blogs; both my parents have provided me with role models, wisdom and life lessons that couldn't be learned from a "stranger". I guess I view the concept of hero as someone outside my known circle.

Bolos said...

Lawrence Lessig. He's a law professor from Stanford who just spent the past decade working on preventing copyright laws from killing creativity. He helped found the Creative Commons project and coined the phrase: Creativity Always Builds on the Past"".

One of the many things I admire about Lessig is his restlessness. He has moved away from copyright law to focus on something he thinks affects us all much more: corruption. His plan is to spend another decade just on this particular subject. We will be using some of his arguments in class to analyze the Constitution.